Will Ice Damage a Pontoon Boat?

If you live in a cold climate, then you’re no stranger to lakes and waterways freeze over during the winter. When you own a boat, the months leading up to winter are often a time of preparation. Some pontoon boat owners often consider leaving their boat in the water over the winter, or maybe they didn’t get around to winterizing their boat before the first big freeze. This can make your pontoon boat maintenance more confusing and you may not know if it will actually damage the boat. 

Will Ice Damage a Pontoon Boat?

Will ice damage a pontoon boat? Yes. The primary part of the boat that will be damaged is the engine. If there is excess water or the boat was not properly winterized, parts of the engine will freeze and crack. The battery can also be damaged due to freezing temperatures. 

While the fall brings on many winterizing tasks, your pontoon boat should become a priority. All boats can easily be damaged by winter temperatures and the possibility of ice and snow. There are ways to prevent winter damage as well as ways to protect yourself financially if your boat is damaged. 

Will Ice Damage a Pontoon Boat?

It is unlikely that you will be driving your pontoon boat through icy waters, so this article will primarily focus on the effects of freezing temperatures and ice buildup over the winter months. Whether your boat is in the water or not, freezing temperatures have the potential to cause unique damages to your pontoon. 

The most likely parts of a boat to be damaged are the engine and fuel tank. However, if you take the time to learn how to properly winterize your pontoon and plan ahead to get it out of the water before a freeze, the likelihood of ice damage drops dramatically. This takes some extra planning, and you may have to pull the boat out of the water earlier than you’d like, but it will keep your pontoon boat in good condition for years to come. 

Leaving Your Boat in the Water Over Winter

For owners of pontoon boats, this is an uncommon practice. Overwintering boats in the water is generally reserved for those boats that have a cabin and allow you to stay inside. This still requires proper winterization and extra equipment to prevent the water from freezing around the boat itself. Plus, not all marinas allow for boats to be stored in the water over the winter months, either. 

Many boats also have the potential of sinking when stored in the water throughout the winter. This is due to ice and snow build-up on the boat. The excess weight caused by ice and snow pushes the boat down enough to allow water to fill and thus result in the gradual sinking. 

There have been cases of pontoon boat owners leaving their boats in the water and having the water freezes around the boat itself. This will cause extensive damage to the engine and have the potential of damaging parts of the boat’s exterior as well. 

If you plan on leaving your pontoon boat at the dock this winter, you will want to consider using a lift to suspend it out of the water. If you already use a lift in the summer months, the same lift can be used to store the pontoon over the winter. This can replace having to store it elsewhere on your property but still requires proper winterization. 

Will Ice Damage a Pontoon Boat?

Ice Damage to the Engine

Any water that is lingering in the engine will expand when exposed to freezing temperatures. The same is true for the fuel tank and gas left inside. The expanding ice within the engine or fuel tank will cause cracks over time and can result in damages to the internal passages. 

Some boat owners consider wrapping and covering their engines during the winter months. This can also cause damage. This is due to the possibility of condensation. The excess moisture will sit on the exterior components of the engine, freezing and unfreezing. This can cause corrosion to the electrical system, throttle, and shift linkages. 

Other Damage Possible

If a pontoon boat is left exposed to winter temperatures and builds up ice, many other parts of the boat can be damaged beside the engine. One other commonly forgotten piece of winterization is the battery. The cold temperatures can easily freeze and lose battery life if not properly winterized. 

The deck and exterior parts of the boat can be damaged as well, especially if there is no boat cover. Anywhere that water can get into on the exterior has the possibility of being damaged. This is due to the expansion of the liquid when it turns into ice. This can leave cracks in parts or all of the deck and can even crack connecting points made of aluminum. 

How to Winterize Your Pontoon Boat

The best way to prevent ice damage to your pontoon boat is to take the time to winterize your boat. It may seem time-consuming at first, but it will save you a lot of stress in the Spring, and your boat will need little to no maintenance before your first post-winter ride. [Learn More About Wintering a Boat]

Interior and Exterior Cleaning

After you have removed your boat from the water, the first step in winterizing any boat is to clean it. This may seem unnecessary, but cleaning out the interior will prevent the build-up of mildew throughout the winter. This means that you should remove any sporting goods, life jackets, and even non-factory electronic items. It is best to do this when the daytime temperatures are still warm so you can wipe down surfaces, and they’ll have time to dry. 

Wiping out and vacuuming all areas of the boat not only prevent mildew, but they can prevent the infiltration of rodents. After you’ve cleaned thoroughly, you will want to add a few mouse traps and other mouse deterrents to prevent them from calling your boat their home throughout the winter months.

Another important aspect of cleaning your pontoon is the exterior. Remove and mussels or other objects that could be hitchhiking and spray the boat down to remove excess dirt. It is also recommended that you apply polish to the bottom and sides of the boat. This will prevent rust from forming and will keep the boat in good shape all winter long. 

Winterize Fuel Tank and Engine

Before you start winterizing the fuel tank and engine, you will want to consult the owner’s manual. You may also want to consider having a professional mechanic orchestrate this part of the winterization. Many insurance companies require a receipt from a mechanic to prove the proper winterization steps were taken if you file for ice damage. 

If you choose to do it yourself, drain all water and coolant from the engine. You will want to replace the coolant with antifreeze that is propylene glycol-based. Then, spray the carburetor and spark plug holes with fogging oil. For this process, follow the instructions on the fogging oil packaging. 

As for the fuel tank, you will only want to have a tank that is about ¾ full. This will prevent damage caused by expanding. If your fuel contains ethanol, you will need to add a fuel stabilizer to prevent separation that occurs over time. 

Charge the Battery

Be sure that your battery is fully charged before you store it. You can bring it into a mechanic or auto store to have them check it. You can choose to either store the battery indoors at room temperature or leave it on the boat. A fully charged battery will be able to withstand temperatures as low as -95 degrees Fahrenheit. If you choose to leave it on the boat over the winter, just check it periodically to ensure that the charge has not gone down. 

Winter Cover

The last step is to cover the boat. This prevents the build-up of ice and snow inside the boat throughout the winter. If all you have is a tarp, that can work, but it will not be the most effective. If the cover is loose, snow and build-up and causes the cover to collapse inside the boat. 

Try to find a boat cover that fits your boat snuggly and will last you over the course of many years. You can also choose to shrink wrap your boat. This will give you the tightest seal and prevent any water from entering.